Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Alicea's Hr Powers Cardinals

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Alicea's Hr Powers Cardinals

Article excerpt

Second base has been the Cardinals' Bermuda Triangle this season. Whoever has been assigned to play there has disappeared as a contributor.

This week, it has been Geronimo Pena's turn in the barrel. Luis Alicea, the starter at second base for the majority of the club's games, has taken a seat at the end of the bench.

But if he is dissatisfied, Alicea turned his dissatisfaction into a positive when he pinch-hit in the seventh inning Friday night.

Alicea, demoted to No. 3 in the second-base derby, propelled the Cardinals to a 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies by tomahawking a Mike Williams pitch over the right-field wall, scoring Tom Pagnozzi and Jose Oquendo ahead of him.

The hit broke a 0-for-13 Cardinals drought with men in scoring position and lifted them from a 3-1 deficit. The comeback win ended a stretch of eight losses for the Cardinals at Veterans Stadium and raised their record in one-run games to 17-7, best in the National League.

Until Alicea's homer, it appeared the Cardinals were headed for their third loss in four nights - all against players who aren't household names. On the heels of falling to Cincinnati's Erik Hanson and the Phillies' Bobby Munoz, they were trailing after six innings to Williams, who had given up 22 hits and 14 runs in his last three starts, covering 12 1/3 innings.

Pagnozzi walked and Oquendo singled with one out before Alicea, a .364 batter as a pinch-hitter but a .205 hitter otherwise, batted for Rick Sutcliffe and hit his second homer of the season.

"Pinch-hitting's a hard job," Alicea said. "You've just got to put your mind to it."

Asked if he were unhappy the way the second-base situation has turned, Alicea said, "(Geronimo) Pena's going to get a chance to play. I can't say anything.

"I got my chance earlier and I didn't hit. It's not that I never got the chance. I've just got to sit down and wait. I can't complain."

Alicea was quoted as being unhappy with Torre last week, but he said he didn't mean that and told Torre that in a meeting in his office.

For whatever reason, Torre believes Alicea is a more aggressive hitter off the bench than when he is playing. "He's going to swing at the first strike he sees," Torre said.

"That takes a lot of the thinking out of it. Sometimes you overprepare. Now you only have three swings in the game, instead of four at-bats."

Torre isn't ruling out the possibility of Alicea returning as the regular second baseman, although Pena had two hits and a walk Friday night. "I have to say I hope not," Torre said, "because that means we're in trouble.

"There are no absolutes. If you do the job, you stay. If you don't, then you return to the back of the line and start over again."

Sutcliffe (3-2) got through the first inning - which he didn't do in his last start. And the second, too.

But the Phillies pasted him for three runs in the third. …

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